Better Together

Tips for Preventing Falls

Even the most fit and active among us are at risk of falling. The National Institute on Aging (NIA) reports more than 1 in 4 people age 65 years or older falls each year. What might be surprising is that the cause of falls—and steps toward fall prevention—aren’t only related to the loss of muscle mass that comes with aging. There are other conditions that lead to falls. Eyesight, hearing, and reflexes are all factors, too. NIA also cites diabetes and heart disease as conditions that can affect balance, too. And some medications can increase risk due to side effects like dizziness. 

Mayo Clinic suggests making an appointment with a healthcare provider to discuss fall prevention. A physician can review your list or prescriptions and identify those that may increase the risk of falling. It’s also important to document any previous falls to inform prevention strategies. Questions about dizziness, joint pain, and numbness can help to identify solutions, too. 

Regular physical activity is beneficial for older adults on many levels, and fall prevention is no exception. Gentle movement exercises like tai chi and yoga make a difference, as well as daily walking and strength training with weights or resistance bands. NIA notes that regular exercise improves flexibility in joints, tendons, and ligaments. Even mild activities may slow bone loss due to osteoporosis. 

Simply making one’s surroundings more safe is a crucial step toward preventing falls. WebMD highlights removing obvious tripping hazards, brightening dimly lit rooms, carpeting slippery floors, and adding non-skid surfaces to bathtubs and showers. Other typical modifications include handrails in hallways, in bathrooms, and along any level changes in the home. The right footwear matters, too: shoes with a low-heel and slip-resistant soles provide a sturdier foundation than socks or slippers. 

Residents at Friendship Village senior living community, have the opportunity to have their balance assessed in the fitness department through advanced technology. Personalized fitness plans are developed to help residents combat the likelihood of falls. The community recently participated in the Otago Exercise Program (OEP), virtually, with a specially trained teacher at Northwestern University. Developed at the University of Otago in New Zealand, OEP is an evidence-based program used to decrease falls and related injuries. OEP is considered to be one of the best fall prevention programs for older adults.

By being attuned to the risk factors and the solutions, older adults can lessen their chances of taking a spill and suffering lasting health consequences. The benefits of a proactive approach to falls can ensure maximum enjoyment of one’s retirement years. And few endeavors are as vital as that. 

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